On Saturday 24th July we finally got to put our dye sink, buckets and drying racks to good use, at our first natural dye workshop with Jane Deane.
We were introduced to the difference between dyes that will work and hold fast without chemical assistance (we used Walnuts). We then looked at how you treat protein fibres (wool, silk and anything that has come from an animal) by mordanting to help other dyes fix to the wool.
The mordants we used were Alum with added cream of tartar, and Titanium. These are all chemicals found in day to day products (toothpaste, laundry powder, deodorants, for example). This means whilst they sound very ‘chemically’, they are safe to dispose of down the drain or on a gravel patch away from water. The magic, though, is that they affect the final colour that can be achieved. Different mordants can create many different shades of the same colour.
Jane had brought 2 other dyes – Weld for yellows and Madder for reds to use with the mordanted cloth strips. Half the alum-mordanted fabric strips went into the weld pot and the other half in the madder pot. The titanium-mordanted strips were similarly divided. Are you already beginning to anticipate the outcome? We now have the potential to create 4 different hues from 2 dye plants.
But then Jane added more variation after dyeing. We then used 5 different chemical modifiers (vinegar, washing soda, etc) to alter the colours again. It feels like magic or alchemy. The day started with a science lab of white pots, plastic measuring beakers, and spoons, and ended feeling more like we had been transported back in time, surrounded by plants, the smell of wet wool and so many different colours!
It was an immensely enjoyable day: extensive tuition, good food and good company – exactly what The Loom Shed was created to do!